Biblioteca del Senato

December 22, 2009

The Lillian Goldman Law Library prides itself on having what may be the best collection of early Italian statutes in the Western Hemisphere. However, our collection will never come close to matching the superb collection of statuti at the Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica “Giovanni Spadolini” (the library of the Italian Senate).

It was a great privilege to tour the Biblioteca del Senato and its statute collection on a recent visit to Rome, courtesy of Dr. Raissa Teodori, Head of Special Collections, and Dr. Alessandra Casamassima (Special Collections Cataloger).

L-R: Alessandra Casamassima, Emma Widener, Mike Widener, Raissa Teodori.

Dr. Teodori gave an excellent overview of the library’s special collections at the 25th Annual Pre-Conference of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)-Library and Research Services for Parliaments, in August 2009, which is available as a PDF file. In addition, there is a published guide to the collection, co-authored by Teodori, Casamassima and Dr. Sandro Bulgarelli (Director of the Biblioteca del Senato): Le Radici Della Nazione: La Storia Delle Citta Italiane Nella Biblioteca Del Senato Statuto Dei Comuni E Libri Antichi Di Storia Locale Dal XIII Al XIX Secolo (Skira, 2004).

The Senate library and its sister library from the lower house of the Italian Parliament, the Biblioteca della Camera, recently moved into a common building on the Piazza Minerva, next to the Pantheon. Both libraries have superb reading rooms and a strong emphasis on service to the general public as well as to legislators.

The library’s building is itself a historic monument. Formerly the mother house of the Dominican Order, it was the site of Galileo’s trial for heresy. The adjoining church, the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, is the only Gothic church in Rome, and contains the tombs of four popes, St. Catherine of Siena, the painter Fra Angelico, and an important figure in legal history, the canonist Guillaume Durand (d. 1296), author of the Speculum iudiciale, “the most widely used procedural treatise of the Middle Ages” (Kenneth Pennington, Medieval Canonists A Bio-Bibliographical Listing).


Rare Book Librarian

Piazza Minerva in Rome, with the Biblioteca del Senato on the left, the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva on the right, and Bernini’s elephant at center.

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